A hidden historical gem in the heart of Purbeck, this is a truly local museum. Telling the story of the area’s ball clay industry, it’s a fascinating way to tunnel into the Isle of Purbeck’s past and learn how industrious clay miners were here, right back to the 17th Century.

The Purbeck Mineral & Mining Museum is an interesting little place to stop if you’re having a day out on the Swanage Railway or parking at Norden station for other nearby attractions.

The museum is housed in an underground mine once used here in Purbeck.

You might also be interested in the Swanage Railway Museum, just down the road at Corfe Castle station,  where the mining museum looks after the locomotive Secundus there.

A small refreshments hut is located just by the car park.

You’ll also find a small children’s play area outside the museum, complete with train-themed climbing frames and equipment.

Play area at Norden train station

History

The mining of clay was an important industry in Purbeck as far back as the 1600s – the strong, white ball clay, able to withstand high temperatures, was popular for making clay pipes for tobacco, and other ceramics.

In the 18th Century the famous Josiah Wedgewood began to order large amounts for use in his potteries.

The clay mining industry in Purbeck grew in the 19th Century, leading to the construction of Dorset’s first railway. This tramway was initially used by horses, which would transport the clay by pulling carts toward Poole Harbour, for onward shipment to London.

This gave rise to a network of mines and narrow gauge rail tracks being built in the area, and in the 1860s the first steam locomotive came to Purbeck.

The boom in this local industry in the late 18th Century was good news for people living in nearby Corfe Castle and other surrounding villages, who gained employment through ball clay mining for many years. Later generations then went to work on the Swanage Railway.

You’ll find various items at the museum, which will bring the past of this area to life – from the equipment used by miners to the narrow gauge railway lines themselves.

Volunteering

The museum relies on donations and volunteer support as part of charity the Swanage Railway Trust.

If you are interested in getting involved in volunteering at the museum, check out the information on the museums website: purbeckminingmuseum.org/join-us/ or get in touch by phone: 01929 408490

A volunteer works on an exhibit (Picture credit: Andrew PM Wright)

Opening hours and contact details

*The museum is currently closed in line with Covid-19 guidance*

Entrance to the museum is free, with a suggested minimum £1 donation.

ℹ️ purbeckminingmuseum.org/about-us/ 

📞 01929 481461

Directions and parking

For your SatNav: BH20 5DW

Located just outside Corfe Castle and right next to Norden train station, the museum is just off the A351 – simply follow the signs off the Norden roundabout.

Google Maps

Parking

There is a large pay-and-display car park at Norden station, which also serves the museum.

Purbeck Park car park also has toilet and baby changing facilities.

Nearby museums to explore

  • Swanage Railway Museum – Based at Corfe Castle station, the railway museum is a great way to explore the history of this much-loved heritage line
  • Swanage Museum & Heritage Centre – Located in the centre of Swanage town, the small museum showcases the area’s vibrant history and fascinating Jurassic Coast geology
  • Square and Compass Museum – Tucked in the back of the Square and Compass pub in Worth Matravers is an intriguing display of locally-collected fossils
  • The Etches Collection – Kimmeridge’s fossil museum has grown up around the personal collection of Dr Steve Etches – an essential dinosaur-themed stop on your visit to the bay
  • Corfe Castle Museum – One of the tiniest museums you’ll ever come across, but a must-see attraction on your tour of this pretty Purbeck village
  • Wareham Town Museum – Right in the heart of the Saxon market town of Wareham is a small museum dedicated to the rich history of the area
  • The Tank Museum – Just outside Wareham, in Bovington, is the Tank Museum – home to a world-renowned collection of tanks